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Traveling nursing is when a trained health professional travels to work in temporary positions, typically at hospitals or other medical facilities. This term was traditionally coined for nurses alone, however, it has been widened to encompass other health professions as well. Some of these include occupational therapists, dentists, doctors, physical therapists, and speech-language pathologists.

These traveling healthcare professionals are in high demand to help offset the shortage of experienced individuals at various hospitals. These temporary positions offer higher pay, personal adventure, and professional growth as well as development. Traveling nurses can opt to be independent contractors or apply with a recruitment agency.

In most cases, recruitment agencies will use the traveling nurse’s application to submit to multiple hospitals offering a short-term open position. These recruitment agencies act as an intermediary between the nurse and potential hires. The agency sets up the assignment, pay rate, and other details so the nurse doesn’t have to. Independent contractors are responsible for contacting and setting up their own temporary positions.

 Requirements For Clinical Experience

Traveling healthcare professionals are expected to be very knowledgeable in their field. In most cases, these individuals don’t receive an orientation at the hospital or facility they are hired at due to their temporary stay.

Each traveling nurse must have a minimum of one and a half years of clinical experience. It’s preferred that at least one year of that experience is in their specialty. In addition, the individual hire will need to have a license to practice in the state in which they are being hired.

In most cases, an individual can be granted a license to practice medicine in other states by requesting reciprocity through their own state’s Board of Nursing. If a traveling nurse must undergo additional certification, the recruitment agency will typically cover the cost. They will also pay for the cost of the license to practice and reimburse any traveling fees.

If a traveling nurse’s home state of certification is part of the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), the nurse may practice in any of the 25 states that are part of the NLC. These states include Montana, Maine, Rhode Island, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, and Idaho.

 Nursing Assignments

A recruitment agency will typically find contracts that range from 4 to 13 weeks. These are known as short-term contracts that are usually within the United States’ borders. In some odd cases, a 26-week contract may be offered or nurses may opt for back-to-back assignments at the same facility.

Recruitment agencies can also connect traveling nurses with work outside of the country. These contracts are longer than in-state as they last from one to two years. In most cases, the traveling nurse will be offered a permanent position when their contract ends.

Travel Nursing Compensation

Traveling nurses are rewarded with three different types of compensation for their work. These include pay, housing, and assignment reimbursements. Let’s take a closer look at each one of these compensation areas below.


A traveling nurse is not paid directly by the hospital that hired them. Instead, traveling nurses are paid by the recruitment agency that placed them at their current employment. The money that the medical facility pays the recruitment agency is known as the bill rate.

The agency will subtract their costs of overhead and other fees from the bill rate received from the hospital. The agency will then pay the traveling nurse the difference. Traveling nurses typically receive a higher pay rate than permanent staffing members at hospitals due to the nature of their work.

The average pay rate is between $30 and $50 per hour. Sometimes it can be even more depending on the circumstances and the traveling nurses experience. Some of these circumstances include the location of the assignment, local cost of living, demand for the position, and the specialty being sought.


In most cases, the housing a traveling nurse will receive is a one-bedroom furnished apartment. The utilities will typically be included in the compensation for the housing. It’s up to the traveling nurse whether they would like the agency to make the arrangements for their living or if they would rather do it themselves.

Some agencies will allow the traveling nurse to help with the housing selection process, while others will not. The traveling nurse always has the ability to secure their own housing for their assignment. If they choose to do so, they will receive a housing stipend which is the value of the provided housing for the time of their assignment.

Assignment Reimbursements

The recruitment agency will give the traveling nurse a travel allowance to help cover the costs of their living, food, and other necessities. In addition, more and more agencies are offering the following perks to their staff:

  • Healthcare Insurance
  • 401(k) Contributions
  • License Reimbursement
  • Referral Bonuses
  • Loyalty Rewards Programs
  • Vacation Pay
  • Sick Days
  • Continuing Education Reimbursements
  • Stock Investment Options

 Facts About Traveling Nurses

It’s estimated that there are over 25,000 traveling nurse job openings in the United States alone. These positions are trying to be filled by 340 US-based traveling nursing recruitment agencies, with the assistance of over 140 international recruitment agencies.